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Despite the Drumbeat of ACC Criticisms, the Big East Remains the Bigger Problem

Posted: Sep 12, 2008

The ACC has been this season's early whipping boy thanks to Clemson's beatdown in Atlanta handed to them by Alabama.  However, we don't see that game as any long term indicator.  That game result resulted primarily because Alabama has a coach that understands how to recruit talent and use it on the field, and Clemson has a coach that might be able to recruit talent without understanding how to utilize it.

Simply put, Nick Saban trumps Tommy Bowden.

The key to long term conference strength comes from a combination of recruiting territory (the potential of recruiting talent), TV exposure (the incentive for recruits), and coaching (the use of that talent).

In that regard, a bright future awaits the ACC.

FSU and Miami have been down due to lackluster recruiting.  That can change and already has.  Virginia Tech has the fertile talent of the Tidewater region to draw from.  Georgia Tech lies in the same territory as their mighty Bulldog brethren in the SEC.  UNC's Butch Davis knows how to recruit nationally, and those efforts seem to be bearing fruit in year two of his time in Chapel Hill.

Jim Grobe of Wake Forest also gives the ACC one of the nations best coaches, one who can get more with less.

To sum up, TF views the ACC's struggles as an issue of transition.  Another one of our Footprint conferences has a more fundamental problem.

Over the summer, we discussed potential problems with the Big East.  Simple put, the best thing the conference has is its automatic BCS bid.  However, the conference has significant and lasting issues - only 8 teams with several lying in questionable football recruting territory.

Last year, things seemed pretty good, but this year's results show that the Big East might have been at the top of a cycle that may not return, especially if the ACC continues to cycle up since the respective best teams of these two conferences share the same recruiting territory.

In 2007, Louisville, Rutgers, UConn, West Virginia, Cincinnati, and South Florida all had their best year or were one year removed from their best year.  Although we are only 2 games into the 2008 season, only South Florida appears capable of matching last year's success (and even that took two nail biting wins against Conference USA's UCF and the Big 12's Kansas).

Pitt and Syracuse remain a joke and at least one will be looking for a new head coach for 2009.

South Florida's Jim Leavitt seems to be the only coach who understands what is at stake.  Perhaps that comes from being in one of the nation's best state for recruiting as well as one of the most competitive places for recruiting.  Leavitt knows that any backsliding on the field will effect future recruiting.  After crashing the Florida college football power structure last year, he wants to keep USF in that discussion over the long haul.

Louisville and Cincinnati remain "little brother" to their big conference big brothers (Kentucky and Ohio State respectively).  West Virginia will suffer from the loss of Rich Rodriguez even though they don't want to hear any of that discussion.  Despite recent gains, Rutgers and UConn have no lasting football tradition, and both will likely drop back to insignificance when (yes, when, not if) their coaches move on to greener pastures.

The Big East's BCS bid remains as their one calling card, but even that may be under review.  Unless South Florida becomes another Miami and carries the conference singlehandedly, the Big East's BCS bid will come under scrutiny.  Any reasonable observer can see that Conference USA, the Mountain West, and the WAC all have legitimate arguments that their conferences, top to bottom, are better than the Big East.

The Big East's talent disparity proved by NFL numbers are a problem as well.

Considering all of this, we again point you to our past story regarding conference realignment.  TF remains steadfast in its belief that Conference USA can and should reach out to its former defectors (Louisville, Cincinnati, and South Florida) to form the ultimate urban-centric college football conference.

We believe that all it would take is the right TV deal to get this group a BCS bid.

The Big East can no longer worship two gods.  It can't be a top basketball conference based around non-football schools like Georgetown, St. Johns, and Marquette and exist as a BCS football conference.  The NCAA penalizes its overstuffed basketball conference (as has been pointed out by Syracuse's Jim Boehiem) while the small size of its football membership makes long term improvement nearly impossible.

TF predicts that one of these things will happen:

A.  The Big East loses its automatic BCS bid

B.  Other conferences gain a BCS bid

C.  The Big East realigns again around Notre Dame football

D.  Some combination of the above

A conference train wreck is coming for the Big East.  Let's just hope that Conference USA is planning hard.  They could be the biggest winner or the biggest loser depending on how things shake out.



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